“Chin Chin” at Liberty Theater, Camp Sherman, Ohio

Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” played at the Liberty Theatre, Camp Sherman, (Chillicothe), Ohio on 4 April 1920

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.“Chin Chin” played at the Grand Opera House in Canton, Ohio on April 1st. It is not clear if they played anywhere on April 2nd or 3rd, but the cast and crew arrived to perform at the Liberty Theatre at Camp Sherman, (Chillicothe) Ohio on April 4th, 1920.

Show Advertising

Even though the show was on a military base, advertising was like most cities that the show went to. I have been unable to find base papers, handbills, or programs, so all I have seen came from the Chillicothe Gazette, the nearby town’s newspaper. There was a typical “Chin-Chin” advertisement showing Walter Wills and Roy Binder about five days before the show. Long thin column ads ran on April 1st and 2nd mentioning that the show sold out in many locations before and those that want to see the show should get their tickets right away.

On the day before the show, another “Chin-Chin” ad ran in the Chillicothe Gazette showing the “Pekin Girls.”

There were no reviews nor was there any after show information regarding the show.

Liberty Theater, Camp Sherman

Liberty Theater, Camp Sherman

In the spring of 1917, the loss of seven ships and related heavy loss of American lives spurred president Woodrow Wilson to request of Congress a declaration of war against Germany. The declaration was approved on 6 April 1917, and America entered the war.[i]

A massive construction program created by the War Department resulted in the simultaneous nation-wide construction of 16 new National Army cantonments and 16 new Army National Guard training camps.

Approximately 5,000 workers had arrived by 5 July 1917, and construction started the next day.[ii] During the war construction never ended. There were 13 contracts for building during the war and there was constant expansion until Armistice Day. Besides barracks, the Camp included 11 YMCA buildings and three theaters.  Two for motion pictures and one building, the Liberty Theatre, that could do both motion pictures and live shows.

The theater was completed by December 1917. Most sources I have found indicate it had a seating capacity of 1,300 people,[iii] however, the Julius Cahn – Gus Hill 1922 Supplement indicates the seating capacity was 2,500. All agree that it was managed by a civilian.

Most of the Camp’s buildings were demolished during the 1920s.

Camp Sherman

Image of Woodrow Wilson created by 21,000 officers and men. Camp Sherman 1918. Photo: Public Domain via Library of Congress.

Camp Sherman is particularly well known for a formation they did consisting of 21,000 troops that formed an image of Woodrow Wilson. It is one of those truly amazing Great War photos.

The next day, the “Chin Chin” cast and crew played 150 miles north of Chillicothe at the  Sandusky Theater in Sandusky, Ohio.



[i] Camp Sherman, Ohio: History of a World War I Training Camp by Susan I. Enscore, Adam D. Smith, and Megan W. Tooker – Published by US Army Corps of Engineers – ERDC/CERL TR-15-25 – December 2015. Page 24

[iii] History of the Ohio State University – Volume IV, The University in the Great War, Part III, In the Camps and at the Front by Wilbur H. Siebert.

Surname Saturday – Taft

Roberts/Barnes/Taft Line
by Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.I was surprised to learn that I know of more ancestors with the surname of Taft in my Roberts Line than any other surname, including Roberts. Only my Mannin(g) and Wolcott ancestors, which are on my Brown line, are more numerous.

Name Origin

Taft is an English name coming from a variant of Old and Middle English word “toft,” meaning a yard enclosing a residence[i], a curtilage, or homestead. It was also applied to a low hillock where a homestead used to be.[ii]


Nearly 12,000 of the 13,500 Tafts in the world live in the United States. The highest concentration of Tafts is on the Island of Jersey, a dependency of the United Kingdom in the English Channel (close to France). Today, there are over 1,000 Tafts in both New York and California. There are only 59 people with the Taft surname here in Maine. I wonder if their ancestors came to Maine as mine went to New York in the 1700s. I’ll have to look at that sometime.

My Ancestors

Photo of President William Henry Taft
“Cousin Bill” (William Henry Taft) – Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Taft is a very famous name in American history. Probably the most famous Taft is my 5th cousin, four times removed, William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States and the 10th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He is the only person to have held both offices. You don’t find cousins any more illustrious than “Cousin Bill.”

I haven’t researched Robert, Benjamin, or Stephen Taft enough to understand their immigration. Certainly, they came from Europe and probably England during the Great Migration of the mid-1600s. Silas Taft, my 5th great-grandfather was born in Massachusetts colony in 1744 and died in New York in 1812.

The 1840 Census indicated that there were no Taft families in Indiana, however my 3rd great-grandfather, Joel Cruff Taft died there in 1849. I know he had lived in New York, during the 1820s, before he went to Indiana. Twenty-five percent of the Tafts in the United States lived in New York in 1840 and over 1/3 of the Tafts resided in Massachusetts. So, it appears that my Tafts followed a typical migration west – Massachusetts to upstate New York, west to Indiana with some going further west again.

My Great Taft Ancestors

  • 1st Great-grandfather: Joel Clinton Barnes (1857-1921)
  • 2nd Great-grandmother: Mercy Eliza Taft (1822-1884)
  • 3rd Great-grandfather: Joel Cruff Taft (1800-1849)
  • 4th Great-grandfather: Asa Taft (1774-1839)
  • 5th Great-grandfather: Silas Taft (1744-1812)
  • 6th Great-grandfather: Stephen Taft (1710-1803)
  • 7th Great-grandfather: Benjamin Taft
  • 8th Great-grandfather: Robert Taft

My known Taft relatives.

My records have 259 known, direct-line descendants of Robert Taft identified over fourteen generations, which is about 9% of my known Roberts/Brown Tree. Mercy Taft, who married Nelson Barnes in 1839, had nine siblings who I haven’t had a chance to research yet.


[i] Internet: Forbears – Taft Surname Meaning & Statistics – http://forebears.io/surnames/taft accessed 14 Feb 2018

[ii] Internet: Ancestry – Taft Family History – Taft Name Meaning – https://www.ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=Taft accessed 14 Feb 2018

Schools I’ve Attended – Osseo High School

My Life
Those Places Thursday
By Don Taylor

During the summer of 1965, my stepfather decided to sell the house in North Minneapolis and build a new home in Brooklyn Park. Brooklyn Park is a second-tier suburb about ten miles northwest of Minneapolis. I believe Budgar was the first to buy in a development called “Sager’s Acres.” In any event, as is often the case with new construction, building completion was delayed. The house on Bryant Avenue sold and we needed a place to live. We ended up renting a dwelling on Lowry Avenue in Minneapolis between Lyndale and Aldrich Avenue. I registered for school at Osseo with the expectation that we’d move to the new house before school started. No such luck. Somehow, we were able to find an Osseo teacher who lived in North Minneapolis and who would give me a ride to and from school until the house in Brooklyn Park was completed. I’m not sure, but I think I rode with the teacher for about a month, maybe two.  I wish I could remember her name and thank her for the rides.

Osseo Then

Osseo High School, New Wing – Source: 1967 Osseo Yearbook

Osseo was an old farming town that was experiencing the pains of massive growth. The school district (Independent School District #279) was an area consisting of Osseo, Brooklyn Park, Maple Grove, and parts of Brooklyn Center and several other towns. The original building was built in 1928. More classrooms and a lunchroom were added in 1949 and more classrooms again were added in 1957. In 1959 a gymnasium was added. In 1961 a major expansion was added and in 1964 another major expansion was added. With one of the expansions, the old part of the building was designated the Junior High portion of the school and the new expansions were designated the high school part of the building. I started at Osseo in the fall of 1965. As I recall, all of the high school classes were in the two new expansion wings of the school. The newly built gym and the cafeteria were used by the High School.  Osseo had the worst lunches ever. Just plain horrible. One meal I remember vividly was toast with a blob of spaghetti-like mix on top with a little cheese melted on top that they called “pizza.” They were also trying to be healthy, so they took chips and good things out of the machines and replaced them with apples, oranges, and other “healthy” foods. In my junior year, the Junior High students moved to a new building nearby and the old building became a newly established Junior College. Needless to say, our attitude changed greatly when we learned that they had student lounges and more adult facilities. They also had good food in their machines. Occasionally, we’d sneak around the building, enter the Junior College, and buy goodies out of their machines.

Foster Home

In the spring of 1966, I got into a big row with my stepfather. He and my mother had been fighting, which typically occurred when he had been drinking, and I broke it up and beating him until I got tired. He made it be known that he would kill me in my sleep for it, so I decided it was time to leave. After a few weeks on the street, I was arrested for trespassing (Two other runaways and I were sleeping in a model home at night.) Budgar didn’t want me back, so I was ruled incorrigible. I was lucky enough to be sent to a foster home in Brooklyn Center (not a group home) and I was able to continue at Osseo High. It was while living in the foster home I met my best friend, Doug, who lived a few blocks away from the Olson’s house on Perry Avenue.

Osseo Interests

Don Taylor junior class photo, 1967
Junior Class Photo – 1967

I was in the audio-visual group, chess club, computer club, and was seen as a generally geeky, nerdy, kid.  I was over six feet tall and under 150 pounds –skinny. I did well in high school and never needed to study to get a “B.” If I really liked a class and I decided to work for it I’d get an “A.”  At that time, they gave students two grades, the standard A to F letter grades for academics and a “Citizenship” grade from 1 to 3; three was a “misfit.” The vast majority of students received a “2,” meaning “Satisfactory.” Once, I receive an A-3. Academically superior but a misfit.  It was Spanish class. My teacher was from Boston and couldn’t trill an “r.” I, however, could trill my “r’s” and would correct the teacher’s pronunciation regularly. She was really frustrated with me. Basically, if I liked a teacher, I did well in school, if I didn’t like a teacher, I cut up constantly and did poorly.

Senior Photo – 1968

I didn’t do anything in the way of sports in high school.  Living in the foster home, I didn’t receive any type allowance or income, but my foster parents encouraged me to work to earn money. I worked at several different jobs during high school. I was a fry cook at a greasy-spoon restaurant in Crystal called Marty’s Grill. Doug worked there also. We were both stiffed on our pay when the place went out of business. I also at International House of Pancakes (IHOP), Sweden House, a smorgasbord (buffet) in Crystal and several different Embers Restaurants. I also worked at a large Holiday gas station in Crystal. (My best friend Doug worked there too.) Twelve years later, when I got out of the Navy, Doug and I also worked together at TRW in Arden Hills. So, we actually worked at three places at the same time over the many years of our friendship.

While I was living at the foster home, I really needed and wanted a driver’s license. In order to get one, I needed to get a copy of my birth certificate. That is when I learned that my birth surname was Taylor. A name I had never heard before. It was shortly after that when I changed my name. My foster parents couldn’t put me on their insurance, so in order to afford insurance, I decided to try to move back with my mother, who truly missed me. Budgar and I were able to co-exist for much of my senior year. However, once I graduated, Budgar want me gone so I moved into a small house in Northeast Minneapolis with a couple friends.

Osseo Today

Image of Osseo High School Today (from air) source Google Maps.
Osseo High Today – Source: Google Maps

Today, Independent School District 279 serves Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Corcoran, Dayton, Hassan Township, Maple Grove, Osseo, and Plymouth. It has 19 elementary schools (K-5), four middle schools (6-8), three high schools, including Osseo, and an area learning center (9-12). Osseo High School is a four-year school with a huge campus. The old 1924 building with the 1935 and 1948 additions were demolished for a new gymnasium. The 1959 gym was converted to a new cafeteria in 2002 along with adding new office spaces. From 2002 to 2005 the exterior was renovated. Finally, in 2014-2015, more classrooms were added along with a choral rehearsal room. Frankly, I don’t think I’d recognize the school today as the same one I attended 50 years ago.

It has been 50 years since I graduated from Osseo. I hope there is a reunion. I’d love to see the old school and possibly catch up with some old friends.


Ancestor Bio – Almira Chamberlain Sanford (1804-1845)

52 Ancestors – Week 2018-07
By Don Taylor

Almira Chamberlain married young and died young, at only 41 years of age. She was a pioneering woman who went west with her husband, from her native Vermont to Genesee and Orleans counties in New York. Then again further west, Almira moved to Saline, Washtenaw County Michigan.

Research Brown Line – Ancestor #101

List of Grandparents

Almira Chamberlain Sanford (1804-1845)

In the year Almira Chamberlain was born, 1804, Vice President Aaron Burr mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton in a dual, Napoleon Bonaparte was proclaimed Emperor of France, and Louis & Clark left on an expedition to explore the newly purchased land west of the Mississippi. Almira was born on 21 August 1804.[i] I believe her father was Benjamin Chamberlain, her mother is unknown. The 1810 Census suggests that she had two older brothers and an older sister.[ii]


Almira married Ezra Sanford in 1819. [iii]She was 15 and Ezra was 27. The young couple headed west and were in Bergen, Genesee County, New York by August 1820 when the census was taken.[iv]

They had nine children – eight boys and one girl. They were Ezra (1820), William (1823), Henry (1824), Amos (1827), Ann Maria (1829), John W. (1831), Orlo (1835), George Poindexter (1835), and Charles A. (1838). All of the children were born in New York except for Charles who was born in Michigan.

The family was in New York through the 1830 census and appears to have consisted of Ezra, Almira, and their first five children.[v]

In 1834, her son Henry died at the age of ten.

In 1836, Ezra headed west with 16-year-old Ezra, (Jr.), and 13-year old William to prospect a new homestead. The following year he returned to New York for his wife and other children and located them in Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan, arriving on July 4th, 1837,[vi] the year that Michigan became a state and only five years after Saline became a town.

The 1840 Census suggests that Ezra junior had created his own household, but Charles, George, Orlo, John, Ann Maria, Amos, Henry, and William were still home. [vii]

Almira (Chamberlain) Sanford died in Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan on July 7th, 1845. She is buried at Benton Cemetery.


[i] History of Washtenaw County, Michigan, William Sanford – Pages 1408 and 1409. Chas. C. Chapman & Co. (1881). History of Washtenaw County, Michigan: Together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships … and biographies of representative citizens : history of Michigan. Chicago: Chas. C. Chapman & Co. https://archive.org/details/cu31924028870520.

[ii] 1810 Census (FS), Family Search, 1810 Census – Benjamin Chamberlain Head – Bennington, Vermont. “United States Census, 1810,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XH21-YST : accessed 7 February 2018), Benj Chamberlain, Bennington, Vermont, United States; citing p. 87A, NARA microfilm publication M252 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 64; FHL microfilm 218,668.

[iii] See Endnote #1 above.

[iv] 1820 Census (FS), Family Search, 1820 – Ezra Sanford – Bergen, Genesee, New York. “United States Census, 1820,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHLV-7VN : accessed 24 September 2017), Ezra Sanford, Bergen, Genesee, New York, United States; citing p. 43, NARA microfilm publication M33, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 72; FHL microfilm 193,727.

[v] 1830 Census (FS), Family Search, Ezra Sanford – Clarendon, Orleans, New York. “United States Census, 1830,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHG5-KP2 : 29 July 2017), Ezra Sanford, Clarendon, Orleans, New York, United States; citing 96, NARA microfilm publication M19, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 115; FHL microfilm 17,175.

[vi] See Endnote #1 above.

[vii] 1840 Census (FS), Family Search, 1840 Census – Ezra Sanford – Saline Township, Washtenaw, Michigan. “United States Census, 1840,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHYX-63Z : 15 August 2017), Ezra Sandford, Saline Township, Washtenaw, Michigan, United States; citing p. 140, NARA microfilm publication M704, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 211; FHL microfilm 14,797.